Friday, February 05, 2010

The joy of classical dances of India

Author : Leela Samson
Illustrator : Jagdish Joshi
Age group : 10 +
Publisher : National Book Trust, India

This is a book with very interesting information on the classical dances of India. It has been authored by none other than Leela Samson, who is the current director of Kalakshetra in Chennai. The beautiful pencil sketches are by Jagdish Joshi.

I picked this book mainly because it piqued my interest and I do have a soft corner for dance, even if I have never learned it formally.

Leela starts the book about the evolution of the Indian dance over the centuries. The book deals with the main classical dance forms of India and also touches upon the little known dance forms of the North East. So we get to read some very interesting things about - Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Manipuri dance, Odissi, Mohini Attam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali, Chhau and Sattriya. She dwells on the origin of the dance, it's significance in the local culture, the evolution of the dance form over the ages, the presentation style and finally it's current form. It makes for a very interesting and insightful read.

The simple sketches are very captivating and bring out the nuances of the dancer so beautifully. This is one of my favourite sketches from the book, giving us a glimpse of the Manipuri dance presentation. You can feel the dancer swirling to the rhythm of the music when you see this picture !

In this picture a drummer is playing an instrument called the pung. When I did a google search for this instrument, to my pleasant surprise I got quite a few You tube videos of Manipuri drummers performing a dance called Pung Cholom. It was a revelation to know so many new things about our own Indian culture.

This is truly one of the gems from National Book Trust, India(NBT) publications. If this book can be adapted by any publisher into a book with simpler text and more such beautiful images, you have a perfect treat for the younger children !


sathish said...

There is a new book by Leela Samson called 'Rukmini Devi: A Life' on Rukmini Dev, the founder of Kalakshetra.

Looking fwd to read that one.

Choxbox said...

We had bought this book a few years ago and my (then) 7 year old had found it very absorbing. They recently did a school project on dances in India and this was her main source for information and did not require trawling the net - something that made me happy :)

Had the privilege of attending a lec-dem by Leela Samson in Kalakshetra one time - was mind-blowing to put it mildly. So looking forward to the new book (read a review just yesterday).

Choxbox said...

And here's a favourite film -

sandhya said...

Must look this up. A, my daughter learns bharatnatyam and her teacher is from the kalaksherta style, so it should be useful.

ranjani.sathish said...

Chox, great that your daughter liked it !

Sandhya, yes I am very sure it will appeal to children who are learning any classical dance.

Meera Sriram said...

Very Interesting Ranjani!

Vibha said...

Would surely pick it up as my daughter is also learning Bhartnatyam.

Sathish thanks for the info about the new book - Rukmini Devi.

Sheela said...

How interesting, Ranjani... I am eager to check this out, having been trained in Bharatanatyam in my youth :)

Praba Ram said...

Fascinating, Ranjani! The 8 classical dance forms one often hears about. Manipuri, yes we all know... Chhau and Sattriya - I am blanking now. Revelation indeed about other East Indian dances.I am totally with you on the "so much to learn about your own culture.." :)

Perfect timing too with this review of yours. K's art teacher at school has assigned a project where the students have to research a classical dance and draw a picture of the dancer. Could be from your native culture. This book would have been so helpful. She has picked Odissi for the project. We have been watching videos on youtube of the classical dances of India. :)

This book does seem like a keepsake. Any online site where I can purchase NBT books? Thank you so much!

ranjani.sathish said...

Vibha and Sheela, yes it is a great book for people learning Indian dance.

Praba, so glad that you liked this pick ! Flipkart has this book..

sarah said...

Great blog! highly informative, gave a lot of knowledge on Indian classical dances must read for avid dancers, passionate about Indian dance and culture.

Indian classical dance said...

thank you for posting this wonderful blog on Indian classical dance, i hope many dancers should read this book especially written by such a great artist herself.

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